The imperial city of Hue (located in Central region) was the former capital of Vietnam. In 1789, Emperor Gia Long ordered the construction of a new capital and work began in 1804. The new imperial city faced southeast of the Perfume River (Sông Hương). It was home to the royal court and the central place of power until the French’s colonization in the 1880’s.
Nowadays, its mystic had faded, yet the royal court’s unique form of music and its elaborate cuisine continue to intrigue though most of the dishes no longer fit the modern lifestyle and mindset.
The king is often served 35 to 50 dishes per meal. The rarest and most famed dishes of Hue’s royal court cuisine are called the “Eight Precious Delights” (Bát Trân).
CURED FERMENTED PEACOCK (NEM CÔNG)
Made of ground peacock thigh meat and various spices and left to ferment to “cook” itself, the royal court consumes this dish on a regular basis because they believe peacock meat can help neutralize and cleanse various forms of toxins. Fear of positioning was a constant worry of kings and queens.
PHEASANT HAM (CHẢ PHƯỢNG)
Pheasant is a beautiful looking bird that can be found in higher grounds and the female is the rarest of all. It is believed that its meat has high nutritious value that can protect the body from various toxic substances. The meat is finely ground, wrapped in banana leaf and then steamed.
RHINOCEROS SKIN (DA TÊ NGƯU)
Rhinoceros has very thick and rough skin, and soft skin can only be founded in its armpit area. This soft skin is soaked in water and then stewed with various herbs to render a delicious soup.
BEAR HANDS (BÀN TAY GẤU)
Bears are strong vegetarian creatures who like to soak their hands in honey and lick them clean. In hibernation, they lick the berry and plant essence stuck in the pads of their hands and feet to keep themselves “full.” The royal court believes this is the cleanest and most nourishing part to be consumed as a stew.
SWALLOW’S NEST (YẾN SÀO)
Swallow’s nest come from solidified saliva of various types of swiftlets and it is believed to contain a high content of minerals and vitamins. It is often cooked as a sweet dessert with lotus seeds, or savory as a stew combined with pigeons.
DEER TENDON (GÂN NAI)
Deer meat is grilled under fire and then steamed until soft. The tendon is separated from the meat and whitened in water with salt and vinegar. It is then stewed with dried shrimps, bamboo, pork ham…in chicken broth.
ORANGUTAN LIPS (MÔI ĐƯỜI ƯƠI)
Their big lips are rarest parts of this giant creature, though some historical records claim this dish doesn’t actually use orangutan lips but rather dried deer meat taken from its cheeks. The recipe for this dish is still difficult to locate from old record.
ELEPHANT FEET (THỊT CHÂN VOI)
Asian culture believes the elephant to be the ultimate symbol of strength and hence, eating its giant feet will give humans the same effect. Only the meat under its feet is soft enough for consumption and this is considered to be a very rare delicacy.